French Peas Celebrates 10 Years Of Business
By CASEY MURPHY
Sisters Stacey Conner and Holly Olson are celebrating 10 years in business.
What started out as a small, antique and collectibles store has budded into a busy flower shop.
"I am just so thankful ... we get to do something we love, and we've made special friends" throughout the 10 years in business, Mrs. Conner said of French Peas Flower Shop.
Mrs. Olson agreed and said they have had some of the same customers coming in since they opened, and they have seen their children grow up. "It's more than just a business," she added.
Mrs. Conner, 35, of Flint, opened French Peas as an antique shop in June 2002. Mrs. Olson, 37, of Chandler, started helping her at the shop part-time but now is just as involved in running the business, she said.
The sisters grew up in Tyler, attending Grace Community and Robert E. Lee High School.
They started gathering antiques and collectibles and selling them at Canton First Monday Trade Days and other shows before Mrs. Conner opened her store in a small pink house on Old Bullard Road. She said they had friends that were also into "shabby chic" items, as they were, and their friends sold antiques out of rented spaces in their original store.
"We love vintage," Mrs. Olson said. "We enjoyed the hunt and the find and putting things together." That love of vintage, unique items still inspires their flower arrangements and other items they sell.
Mrs. Conner said they couldn't make any money selling antiques, so she kept her job working as a florist. Starting when she was 19, Mrs. Conner worked for several local florists, but there were some aspects of it she didn't like.
Mrs. Olson said her sister often said she would never open a flower shop, because when she was working for nationwide commercial flower companies, she was required to give each arrangement a certain look, even though it may not be something she liked.
Mrs. Conner said that after about a year of opening French Peas, some of her former floral customers began asking her to make arrangements for special occasions. Two years after starting the business, they changed it into French Peas Flower Shop.
"We decided to do something that was fresh, that was us and our style," she said.
Mrs. Conner said a lot of flowers they had received as gifts over the years didn't hold up, so they experimented with longer-lasting flowers. They also toss out all of their flowers each week and start over with fresh ingredients. The women use ribbon of every color and pattern to give their arrangements a special touch, she said.
Mrs. Olson agreed and said it is all in the small details, such as the quality ribbon, containers and flowers that pull off the look they want. And when customers want a small but special gift and only have $25 to spend, they can fit that budget and give them something really pretty, she added.
They keep a cooler full of flower arrangements in all different price ranges -- from $18 to $100 - for customers to grab on the go or use for inspiration when ordering, Mrs. Conner said. French Peas also delivers flowers.
Mrs. Olson said they do a lot of roses in different varieties, and also often use hydrangeas, snap dragons and lilies. Other flowers used depend on the season, such as tulips in the spring, long-lasting antique varieties of hydrangeas in the summer and a lot of berries, miniature pumpkins and warm colors in the fall. She said they do not use any carnations or baby's breath. Tighter nosegays and pave style arrangements are also popular with their customers and all arrangements come in a French Peas decorative box with tissue paper that help the flowers ride well in a car and make the recipient feel like they are receiving a gift, she said.
The women also sell a lot of custom-made wreaths and preserved, freeze-dried flower arrangements. A big trend is the preserved boxwood plants they sell in several shapes. "It's hard to keep it in; it goes so fast," Mrs. Olson said.
French Peas also offers English gardens, a variety of plants arranged together, and topiaries made of English ivy and formed into myriad shapes. "We carry a lot of unique, really special topiaries," Mrs. Olson said. "There's a good market for that."
Before helping her sister with the business, Mrs. Olson worked in retail at Mary V's by Shelby for six years and still sees a lot of her former customers at her sister's shop.
"I really love the customer end of it ... that's what I bring to the table," she said. "I love the customers; I love the interaction and making people happy."
Mrs. Conner spends most of her time designing flower arrangements.
The sisters enjoy working side by side every day.
"It's such a treat to be able to work with your best friend," Mrs. Olson said.
Mrs. Conner agreed.
"It wouldn't be the same without you," she told her sister.
Mrs. Conner said they moved from next door to their current location more than three years ago. The building is about twice the size and allows more work space. Last month, the women held an open house/anniversary party for friends, family and customers to celebrate 10 years in business.
Mrs. Conner said their father was self-employed and worked hard, which inspired them. "We work our tails off but really enjoy what we do," she said.
Mrs. Olson has been married to Stephen for 18 years and they have three children, Garrett, 12, Anna, 9, and Abbie, 3.